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Broadway boogie-woogie
October 2011
by Lloyd Dunlap  |  Email the author


SAN CARLOS, Calif.—NuGEN Technologies Inc., which focuses on the development of sample preparation solutions for next-generation sequencing (NGS) and genomic profiling applications, and Advanced Liquid Logic (ALL), a pioneer in digital microfluidics technology, have inked an exclusive co-development and supply agreement under which ALL will provide instrumentation, software and digital microfluidic cartridge technology to NuGEN for commercialization.  
As part of the co-development process, NuGEN will focus on reagent and sample preparation, and ALL will provide its expertise in digital microfluidic design and programming. NuGEN will be the exclusive provider of both the instrument and reagent technology commercially to the life-science research market.  
"I became aware of Advanced Liquid Logic as I was searching for a way to provide affordable automation of sample preparation to the market," says NuGen CEO Elizabeth Hutt. "This is a natural extension of our commitment to develop technologies that solve bottlenecks in sample processing, streamline workflows and expand access to precious clinical specimens. There is a strong synergy between the two companies, as both have unique offerings that change the way scientists think about their research."  
NuGEN will market the system under the brand name Mondrian SP, she notes, because NuGEN's brand identity evokes a Mondrian look and feel.  
"We recognized that there was a strong similarity between the cartridge design and Piet Mondrian's Broadway Boogie Woogie—where art meets science—the perfect description of an innovative and elegant design," Hutt adds.  
ALL's technology enables direct electrical manipulation of sub-microliter droplets without requiring pumps, valves or channels. The compact benchtop plug-and-play system consists of a touch-screen controlled instrument and a disposable cartridge that resembles a conventional well plate. A single cartridge can be configured for multiple sample preparation applications. The instrument itself is small, very reliable, easy to maintain and low-cost, as it has virtually no moving parts due to the innovative microfluidic technology used in the disposable cartridges, Hutt notes.  
Complex protocols involving hundreds or thousands of individual droplet operations are performed in sub-microliter volumes, reducing the sample and reagent quantities required for genomic studies. Single instruments accommodate lower throughput requirements effectively, while multiple units can be used in tandem with HTP robotics to further streamline larger workflow processes, according to ALL.  
The collaboration will focus initially on NGS library preparation protocols for Illumina sequencing platforms. The first protocols are currently being developed in partnership with the Broad Institute. NuGEN is also collaborating with the Broad Institute and Advanced Liquid Logic on method development on the digital microfluidic cartridge. A broad menu of protocols will be developed for applications that will be compatible with all major NGS platforms and also for other genomic analysis techniques, including microarrays and qPCR. Future development plans from NuGEN include Ovation RNA-Seq and Encore Amplification Free NGS Library Systems, with availability expected by year's end.  
"We think NuGEN has demonstrated unique capabilities in enabling researchers to work with very small amounts of starting materials," says Hutt. "Introduction of this system is a natural extension of that mission, as the system allows for even smaller amounts of starting materials by working in volumes unachievable with any other existing technologies. The need for these cost-effective tools and efficient workflows in sub-microliter volumes transcends laboratories of all sizes. As utilization of NGS technologies expands, scientists need access to more efficient tools and workflows. The introduction of the Mondrian SP system meets those needs and underscores our commitment to the scientific community."  
"Increasing interest in employing NGS technology has created a need for sample preparation automation that is cost-effective to acquire and operate," adds Richard West, president and CEO of ALL. "Digital microfluidics enables flexible automation of sample preparation workflows while dramatically reducing reagent volumes. We expect the Mondrian SP to gain broad adoption in the research laboratory environment."
Code: E101110



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